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I'm working on a kind of worn down future idea with darker tones, and I want to have a character who lives in slums with worn out prosthetic arms, but be something they keep very private to keep from being looked down upon or discriminated against.

What reasons, logical or illogical, would this society have to dislike people with robotic enhancements or prosthetics? For clarification, the character themselves has prosthetics that would make them somewhat less capable than having normal arms, but this can play off enhancements.

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    $\begingroup$ You are making it sound as if systematic discrimination is a logical and beneficial if not even optimal thing to do for an entire society. Just to clarify, this is what you want? One can construct such reasons, however this is an unusual approach to say the least because you would basically end up with a story with a fascist subtext. The lion king made a lot of money and didn't lead to the collapse of the free world, so this is not unheard of, it's just unusual $\endgroup$ – Raditz_35 Apr 9 '18 at 9:11
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    $\begingroup$ Reminder to close-voters: The problem cannot be fixed if the OP is not made aware of it. $\endgroup$ – Frostfyre Apr 9 '18 at 12:36
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    $\begingroup$ Please clarify. Are people are being discriminated for having prosthetics or are they being discriminated for specifically having "worn out" prosthetics? Religion/athletic fairness is the answer for the former and rich elitism is the answer for the latter. $\endgroup$ – MonkeyZeus Apr 9 '18 at 12:37
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    $\begingroup$ That being said, I do believe the off-topic and too broad close reasons so far employed are both reasonable and fairly self-explanatory. Joel, "society" is a massive concept, encompassing a lot of people with varied backgrounds. Each person in a society can have his/her own, personal reason to like or not like something. Discussing all the possibilities would be A) a list and B) too long an answer for the Stack Exchange format. $\endgroup$ – Frostfyre Apr 9 '18 at 12:39
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    $\begingroup$ Are you looking for a logical reason, or an irrational one? If a logical one, what does the current economic/production/industrial situation look like? If an irrational one, what sort of superstitions and history are involved in this society? $\endgroup$ – Ethan Kaminski Apr 9 '18 at 14:41

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Have you heard about a game called Deus Ex? They give a handful of reason to don't like augmented people.
From having "unfair" advantage (builders with spirit levels in eyes) to admitting to failure as human when you need to rely on super strength.

Oh, and also when you are a robot someone can just flip the switch and send every Aug on a killing spree.

And if you are lazy just throw religion at this. God created human in his image so changing that is a blasphemy.

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    $\begingroup$ A good spoof of the "blasphemy/abomination" example is in the Discworld book Monstrous Regiment. Hiring an Igor to replace a missing limb is "an Abomination unto Nuggan" (like the colour blue, babies, and so on...) $\endgroup$ – Philip Rowlands Apr 9 '18 at 9:53
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In order to find the answer, I'll change your question a little:

What reasons would this society have to dislike people with another skin tone?

The answer is: none. But you'll always find someone disliking someone else for beeing different.

For robotic enhancement, I think of Dex, The Red String Club and The Night's Dawn Trilogy.

In Dex, some militia hunt people with robotic enhancements because they're not natural anymore.

In Red String Club, some choose to not have robotic enhancements because they do not trust manufacturers (maybe for a good reason?) and try to sabotage production.

In The Night's Dawn Trilogy, some mercenaries changed almost all of theirs body with military grade advancements and does not refer themselves as human anymore.

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    $\begingroup$ “The answer is: [no reason]” — this is evolutionarily inaccurate (from a selfish gene perspective). In-group vs out-group behaviour has a very specific reason due to gene selection. It’s not a good reason for Individuals or society. But it didn’t “just” arise. It arose due to underlying mechanistic reasons that can be mathematically modelled. $\endgroup$ – Konrad Rudolph Apr 9 '18 at 13:46
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    $\begingroup$ @KonradRudolph Ok. Let's preface the question with "assuming a rational agent", or change "reasons" to "justifiable reasons". $\endgroup$ – wizzwizz4 Apr 9 '18 at 15:21
  • $\begingroup$ @wizzwizz4 - In-group vs out-group behaviour exists because it's beneficial, and therefore rational. And racism is much, much deeper than skin tone. $\endgroup$ – Davor Apr 9 '18 at 20:12
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    $\begingroup$ @Davor Was beneficial. Now it gets you labelled as racist and loses you social status, so it' s'more selected against than it used to be. $\endgroup$ – wizzwizz4 Apr 9 '18 at 20:21
  • $\begingroup$ @wizzwizz4 - a major racist just became the president of America. Half the presidents of other countries around the worlds are literally neonazis. Lets just say I disagree with you. $\endgroup$ – Davor Apr 11 '18 at 19:13
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For the same reason people discriminate against any group:

They're different

What comes after that is secondary, logic doesn't have any part in it, only fear of the "other".

As to what reasons they'll give, this is a matter of how society treats them and whether they're replacements or enhancements. Burden on society, taking our jobs, poor and homeless, more machine than man. Take your pick, it'll only take a few such people in visible positions of power before "they're taking over the world".

People will always find reasons to hate a group they don't identify with.

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    $\begingroup$ Eh, I strongly disagree with the "logic has no part in it" claim here. Discrimination was extremely strategically useful throughout most of our civilization's history... as I've pointed out in my answer. $\endgroup$ – FooBar Apr 9 '18 at 12:38
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    $\begingroup$ @FooBar Unlikely. For civilisations (and even before), cooperation was almost always a better long-term — and individual — strategy than competition (as far as well-being and survival was concerned; your genes/alleles would think differently but that’s rarely seen as relevant because alleles ironically don’t care about your well-being, just their individual propagation). $\endgroup$ – Konrad Rudolph Apr 9 '18 at 13:48
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    $\begingroup$ @KonradRudolph I agree with that. My -- here badly formulated -- point refers not to the whole society, but rather sub coalitions. Experimental evidence is largely in line with intuition, showing that the amount of cooperation decreases in group size. For the society as a whole, cooperation is typically better. As society increases however, it's difficult to prevent smaller coalitions from expropriating the others -- the dominating strategy for that coalition. How cooperative do you think the typical aristocrat was? $\endgroup$ – FooBar Apr 9 '18 at 13:57
  • $\begingroup$ @KonradRudolph - people are not civilisations. $\endgroup$ – Davor Apr 11 '18 at 19:14
  • $\begingroup$ @Davor My phrasing was short for “for people living since the time of the first civilisations”. Hence my emphasised addition “and individual [strategy]”. $\endgroup$ – Konrad Rudolph Apr 11 '18 at 19:23
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If you take a look at the Bas Lag trilogy of books by China Mieville (Perdido St Station, The Scar, Iron Council) then you'll see a world in which the Remade are in effect punished criminals.

If you do something seriously wrong, as part of your punishment (instead of going to a prison where it costs money to feed you and detain you) you're sent to a remaking facility with specific instructions from a judge about how you are to be remade. Remaking in this world is the integration of your body with specific steam based engines and mechanisms that both serve a specific purpose for the society you've harmed, and make you stand out as an offender.

It's possible that such concepts may well exist in our future as well. Not necessarily criminals although this is possible; give a criminal the tools to repair the society he or she has harmed and all that. But, imagine (if you will) and indentured servitude class where specific augmentations are forced upon people to ensure they're only useful for a specific specialisation.

Your prosthetic arm (for instance) may be designed with specific tools in mind as the bearer was meant to be a mechanic. It might be optimised more for strength (carter) or even small motor skill speed (scribe or typist). Assuming you no longer work in that field for whatever reason, the prosthetic may make you stand apart as someone who was originally indentured to a specific line of work. It might block you from certain privileges of the citizenry or just make others feel like they're better than you because you've been considered sufficiently low in society that you could be altered.

Another side of this is that your person may now be working in different fields, but the alteration makes you stand out as being of a different skillset. Not social discrimination, but it may well be employment discrimination. Having a mechanic's arm and applying for a job like paralegal could be the same as a CV with no relevant skills on it; people just don't think you're up for the job.

So; it could be a stigma based on a large number of offenders having prosthetics, it could be a caste system where lower members of society are routinely 'optimised' for the career that's chosen for them, or even just that your prosthetics 'advertise' a specific career different to the one you're trying to pursue. All you really have to do is make it so that the rich and powerful would never dream of getting it done to them and society will follow their lead as a value judgement.

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  • $\begingroup$ That's a very interesting idea, thanks for that. $\endgroup$ – AwesomeJoel27 Apr 9 '18 at 20:23
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Evolutionary game theory

All the answers before are valid, but I'd like to propose an alteration of the haters gonna hate theme that came up so often.

Why do haters hate?

There's several evolutionary reasons why creating ingroups and outgroups is strategically useful.

Typically, you will want to be part of the largest group that can sustain a robust majority in your country. The larger the group, the more people have to share resources, which is bad. If the group is too small, it cannot dominate the remainder of the population, which too is evolutionary bad.

How you draw these groups is pretty arbitrary (of course, there might be particular strategic reasons to include or exclude your augmented individuals in the group). A large part of earth history consists of different people trying to spread their version of how populations should be particioned ("Yes, they are all immigrants, but those are black..."). And typically, once you've managed to partition the population, it's very hard to change the idea in the people's head.

See for instance that it was strategically useful [aka a netgain of material wealth for the oppressors] to build coalitions against Jewish people in earlier centuries, and religion was used as a divisor. Nowadays, there are not as many strategic resources available to expropriation, and the likelihood of shifting the narrative enough to make expropriation is negligible -- "hating Jews" is not as useful [to the non-Jewish partition] as it once was, yet some people are still doing it. Persistence.

Your case

It's strategically useful to discriminate against enhanced beings if

  • they are a strategic factor: Either they control a lot of resources, or they could be very powerful (good fighters etc)
  • Other dimensions to partition the populations are less relevant (for example there exists no big religion divide beforehand)
  • Somehow, the narratives evolve
    • Suddenly, the planet gets much richer, and therefore fighting for resources more valuable than before
    • Some strategic people have foreseen long-term consequences of enhanced humans and therefore coordinate hate speech

Of course, there could be other ways in which your enhanced beings have alienated themselves. As in X-Men, a few bad individuals may ruin everyone's reputation. But for those cases, I point at the other answers.

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    $\begingroup$ I'm afraid you're going to need a stronger argument if you're going to state that hating Jews was ever useful to society. $\endgroup$ – Separatrix Apr 9 '18 at 12:45
  • $\begingroup$ @Separatrix Where did I claim that? Evolutionary biology is not always about what is best for the whole species... $\endgroup$ – FooBar Apr 9 '18 at 12:49
  • $\begingroup$ See for instance that it was strategically useful to build coalitions against Jewish people in earlier centuries $\endgroup$ – Separatrix Apr 9 '18 at 12:51
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    $\begingroup$ @Separatrix You do understand that I'm not referring to society as a whole here, right? Or do you understand that and disagree with the claim that the winners of the expropriation (eg Catholic church in earlier centuries, national socialists later on) on net gained material wealth through the expropriation? $\endgroup$ – FooBar Apr 9 '18 at 12:54
  • $\begingroup$ Net material wealth that would have been available to them directly by assimilation over hatred and expropriation. Accept them as your own and that wealth is already part of your group. You've made no argument as to why hating them was an advantage, only that it was. $\endgroup$ – Separatrix Apr 9 '18 at 12:58
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(As others have said, haters are gonna hate, they don't really need a reason)

Other answers have concentrated on the "enhancement" angle, I would like to say a few words about the "prosthetics" angle.

Losing a limb is seen by some as a sign of the gods' disfavour. This has happened time and again throughout history.

If you live life without that limb you might be in disfavour, but at least you have humbly accepted the gods' judgment. People will tolerate you.

If you use a prosthetic openly, you are defying the gods. No good will come of this and people will avoid you.

If you use a prosthetic and hide it, you are a cheater and a fraud. You endanger everybody around you as the gods' wrath can strike them down for associating with you. If you are found out, you will be put to the torch.

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If you describe it as "robotic enhancements" then perhaps people think others with these enhancements are a threat, or fear what the enhanced humans can do.
On the other hand people may see it as lesser, as though having a prosthetic makes you less human.
Where there are differences, people will find a reason to discriminate.

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There are a few options here:

Bionic superiority

Workers with robotic prosthetics are more efficient than an "organic" worker, effectively replacing multiple jobs. People with prosthetics are looked down on by "organics" because they take their jobs and livelihood.

Assumptions and moral stigma

An example would be observing a society where thieves are punished by cutting off the right hand. Almost inherently, those with a prosthetic right hand will be assumed to be a thief.

Assuming you have a variety of limbs that get chopped off for different crimes, people will automatically assume that anyone who misses a particular bodypart (which is revealed through having prosthetics there) was once convicted of the related crime.

Organic purity

There could be a religious/cultural belief that only pure organical creatures are blessed/have a soul/are respected/...

This is somewhat similar to abortions nowadays. While they are available in some parts of the world, having had an abortion will get you banned/excluded from some other parts of the world (even if not legally).
Similarly, there may be some communities/ideologies that explicitly forbid wearing prosthetics. Whether they have a good reason for doing so is up to you to decide (they might justify their rules, they might not if they're authoritarian).

A fad that passed

This is less severe than the others.

If having prosthetics was once in fashion, but is later mocked (similar to how we mock old fashion), then people may want to hide their prosthetics to avoid being mocked.

Even people who have prosthetics for a valid (non-elective) reason might still be assumed to have done it electively; so even they are incentivized to hide their prosthetics.

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In a variation on Stig's, thkala's and Martijn's answers, look at the negative reasons for the prosthetic as a replacement:

They have had a terrible disease which cost them their limb(s), needing prosthetics.
People avoid people with diseases, especially if the disease is thought to be contagious.

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Because people with prosthetics are considerd "cheaters". People without prosthetics have the idea that they're wrong. They have thoughts like: Why would people need prosthetics, what is wrong with normal? AM I wrong?. This creates a split between "normal" and "modified" people.

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Peak Oil. The augmentation is a leftover of an age of energy abundance. But the oil peaked, fusion never took off, and solar, wind, hydroelectric and nuclear together can barely keep society out of a malthusian die-off. Cybernetics implants are quite expensive in terms of energy, both to craft them and to mantain them and people dislike these wasteful knaves gorging in energy while people are barely eating.

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Cyber Psychosis/Empathy Loss and other loss of intangibles.

Whether it's a spiritual thing (Essence loss in Shadowrun, for example) or a psychological thing, it is a common trope that replacing parts of the original body makes you less "you." In such a setting, people with heavy augmentation tend to be less capable of empathy/relating to other people as people, whether due to intangibles, or due to actual technical limitations (the cybernetics don't move 100% right, for example, which triggers uncanny valley in observers, or maybe they just dont smell right, as it's astonishing how much of our communication and assessment of an individual is non-verbal.)

In this case, our broken down old cyborg may have lost a certain amount of their sense of self in the process, which creeps people out on an insitinctive level, so they get stigmatised, whether or not there's a formal name for the prejudice.

if your setting allows for the existence of souls, and the supporting metaphysics, then a simple "cybernetics eat your soul, and the presence of a damaged soul creeps people out" will do it too.

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  • $\begingroup$ Heh. I hadn't spotted that I used the exact same phrase. Conceptually, though, it does very much apply. And no, I know I'm not going to drop people dopwn the tvtropes rabbithole. We may never come back. $\endgroup$ – Wenlocke Apr 9 '18 at 15:31
  • $\begingroup$ That I remembered that that was the name of a trope... shows that I too have fallen into that trap before. I' will delete the original comment to protect the readers. $\endgroup$ – wizzwizz4 Apr 9 '18 at 15:37
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Flipping it slightly: Suppose this future world has perfected organ/limb cloning an replacements. Anyone who then has a prosthetic replacement, rather than an organic one is either A) too poor to afford a cloned tranplant or B) objecting to these 'newfangled CloTrans'. (making them the futuristic equivalent to a Luddite or Amish.)

Both of these are already "reasons" that people get discriminated against.

Since you no longer have the "enhancement" stigma suggested by many other answers, this also lets you have characters with various body-mods as "normal", or at least only slighly unusual.

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  1. The (very) old fashioned religious argument of "the world is just and righteous therefore the disabled probably earned their place through sin"
  2. If lost in a war it could be the case that that specific war had no "good side" the entire war was/is viewed as a pointless power struggle between 'evil' nations who's soldiers are not looked upon kindly.
  3. There is only one source of prosthetics that advanced, and no one likes them. Evil company, crazy AI etc...
  4. There is no reason and your characters just paranoid.
  5. They have connotations with something people have a genuine gripe against. (Sort of like who in WW2 German Americans his their culture and accents despite having nothing to do with the Nazis.
  6. Some government, cult, church, charismatic leader, company etc.. Is spreading an ideology which is 90% common sense 10% "we must protect the ideal human form"
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Are you referring to prosthetic replacements, or prosthetic enhancements?

If it's the former, people with disabilities are discriminated against today, prosthetics or not. Seeing this behavior continue into the future is, unfortunately, not hard at all to imagine.

If it's the latter, it could be that people fear or feel cheated by folks with such prosthetics. For real-life arguments, just take a look at the few cases of athletes with prosthetics competing in the Olympics, and the resulting controversy.

...or it could simply be about be about your character having worn out prosthetics. The well-off are often prone to discrimination against those who are not as lucky in their lives.

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  • $\begingroup$ Well, it can be both, prosthetics that enhance the user and those that hinder, the character would have the latter, and you're right about the worn out prosthetics. $\endgroup$ – AwesomeJoel27 Apr 9 '18 at 20:58
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Your character seems like a poor lad in this futuristic society. I will assume this society is very advanced and the only reason your character has a prosthetic limb is his bad genes or bad healing, which keeps his body from performing optimally like the rest of society.

Let's say that most human beings have been genetically engineered to have extremely strong bones and near god levels of healing. This man with his prosthetic limbs was doomed to live a life of mediocrity, because his parents never believed in becoming a part of the super race.

This character lived on the outskirts of the supercity along with the other "barbarians" who reject the idea of genetic modification and they live very violent, primitive lives. The inhabitants of the supercity believe these people are scum.

Your character wants to get away from the violence of these slums and make a life for himself inside the city, but his scarred face, unusual appearance and useless prosthetics makes it difficult for anyone to see him as someone worth correspondence.

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The body is a temple.

Your body is a temple, unique and given to you by the mighty universe. How dare you introducing these... impurities?
Your weakness is repulsing, these so called enhancements only make you a tool, a slave, a weakling!

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A very obvious one is

Fear of what enhanced people can do

for instance replace the word robotic enhancement with "Semiautomatic weapons" and you have yourself a recent real-world analogy

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A society would tend to dislike people with replacement prosthetics because, by replacing body parts as they fail, a member of the society could essentially become immortal.

Doing so would probably be an option for someone who has a lot of money, so this "immortality" would be associated with the very rich. Your character might be looked upon as a "spoiled rich kid," even if s/he obtained the prosthetics through some other means.

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Health reasons

Prosthetics need constant maintenance. Worn out prosthetics are like old, badly maintained cars: they spill unhealthy chemicals, and are a danger hazard when they malfunction. Especially if the prosthetics use miniature fission reactors (you buy one, the energy should last a lifetime, and it would make it more likely that they can still function if one does not have enough money to care for them because you don't need to refuel either). Sure, they also make their owners ill, but what choice do they have if they don't have the money to get them serviced?

However, I'm not sure I'd call this "discrimination" as I associate that word with a certain degree of irrational behaviour. But when people start seeing everyone with prosthetics (however well-maintained) as potential health hazard, that would fulfil this criterion in my opinion.

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Have you considered that they don't need to discriminate against people with prosthetics? Wouldn't an equally useful reason be related to it being old and worn out?

Looking down on the poor and those who don't have nice things is a well established trait of human societies. Just as a battered old car, tatty clothes, or a cracked and ageing mobile phone would get you judged so too would an old prosthetic.

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It depends on what type of prosthetics those are. If we are talking about prosthetics (as opposed to enhancements) similar to today's and yesterday's ones, which while helpful, still mostly leave person less able than one with all limbs, then one of the answers can simply be cultural bias together with government policy.

For example, a very real case. When the Iron Curtain fell, many of my countrymen, as they went to West Europe for the first time, were surprised to see on the streets lots of handicapped people. In the USSR, you could see them in public quite rarely.

It was not because there were less handicapped people in the USSR. It was because there were no facilities anywhere that enabled them to move around easily. For example, the USSR never thought to provide street curbs in its towns with ramps. The only places where you could find ramps where at hospital entrances, where they presumably were installed for the benefit of stretchers and ambulances.

There was no overt discrimination of people with disabilities, but they did usually only got the means to scrape a living, not to lead as full a life as possible.

One of the side-effects of this was that since people with prosthetics and in wheelchairs were a rare occurrence, most people on the streets didn't feel comfortable around them and didn't know how to react to them. So they were ignored a lot -- a hurried glance that skips over and pretends to watch something else.

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